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Experimental drug could thwart measles outbreaks

A new antiviral drug may provide an effective way to treat measles in those who have not been vaccinated.

When tested in an oral form in animals infected with a similar version of the measles virus, the experimental drug not only prevented animals from dying of the disease, but it significantly reduced virus levels.

Developed by scientists from the Institute for Biomedical Sciences at Georgia State University, the Emory Institute for Drug Development and the Paul-Ehrlich Institute in Germany, the drug is designed to block the replication of the measles-causing pathogen. The drug, dubbed ERDRP-0519, could potentially boost measles eradication efforts by halting the spread of the virus during local outbreaks, according to the researchers.

In a study appearing in Science Translational Medicine, researchers report that they tested the drug in ferrets with canine distemper virus, which causes a highly lethal infection that resembles the human version of measles. All of the animals treated with ERDRP-0519 survived infection, remained disease free and developed robust immunity against the virus.

Though the drug is not intended as a substitute for vaccination, it could eventually be used in addition to a vaccine to treat people who have come into contact with someone infected with measles but have not yet developed measles symptoms.